It’s amazing how the words of one person can cause such doubt, and inspire such confidence all at once.
There is an amazing woman in my life who has, since the first time I met her, had the uncanny ability to speak prophetically into the very moment of my life with a few simple words.
I’ve been corresponding with her recently, and filling her in on ‘the chaplain direction,’ and I recently received an email from her that gave me pause. Quite a long pause in fact. You see… As usual, she summed up the crux of my personality in one sentence. That sentence was then the set-up for, “I’m not sure you will be happy with this path.”
Her concerns were basically that I’m not your typical Christian. I get squirmy in many worship services. I have doubts and am vocal about them. I ask lots and lots of questions. Most of all–if you present me with a point of view–a Christian point of view or otherwise–it’ll take me a while to decide if I want to adopt it. It takes me a while to find out if a thing resonates with my spirit, and also to decide if I am able to bend my will to it.
I read her words over and over again. I mulled them over. I took them seriously because of the special place she holds in my life, and because of her history of speaking un-ignorable truth. I stewed about it for days. And finally, before bed last night, I showed the note to my husband, and we hashed some things out.
Finally, I was able to realize and articulate that I agree with my friend on all counts of her letter. And I have since this ‘direction’ first presented itself to me. What I realized is, as is frequently the case, these things that may be weaknesses, I hope can be transformed by God’s goodness into strengths.
As a chaplain, it will be my privilege to interact with people of many faiths. It will be my responsibility to respect all faiths, and my job to point people in the direction of peace with their understanding of God. It will be my job not to convert any one to my way of thinking, but to bring an awareness of the work of the spirit in the lives of the people with whom I interact. They may not recognize ‘the work of the spirit’ in the same way that I would. They may use entirely different terms framed in entirely different world-views. So, what I feel, is this ‘atypical Christian’ aspect of me could really come in handy. It has, for some time now, allowed me to try to look at the world through the eyes of others. It will likely also cause me frustration–especially during my schooling. I have already had the fear that I will have to ‘learn to speak a new language’ namely, Christianese or Churchspeak…. and I’m just not sure that is who I am. But… that’s ok. I hope to find that the language I speak fluently may indeed contain the vocabulary that can speak peace to individuals facing their own death, or the death of someone they love.
Furthermore, this quality of me that does not easily bend is the reason that I am rarely appeased with easy answers. In a career working with the dying and their families I can’t think of a better quality. If someone had sat across the room from me when my Mom was dying and tried to offer me easy answers, platitudes, or shiny-happy-Christian talk, I would have, frankly, slapped them. Those things ring empty in the face of dire circumstances.
In the end, I may find that my friend is right on all counts. I may discover that I can’t be happy walking this path. But I think that’s something I will have to discover on my own. And if I do, somehow it will be a worthwhile lesson, and one that will bring me to a new part of my journey.
I think there is a good chance though, that these words were used prophetically in my life–but in a different way than usual. They helped me to search out and articulate the reasons that my quirky attributes, and even my weaknesses could theoretically serve the higher purpose of this path.
My plan is still to walk on and see what happens.